Voices: Studebaker

Operators Get What They Deserve

Our First 25 Years Chronicle the Rising Role of the Operator in Defining the Human Interface

By Paul Studebaker

In January 1989, an article on computer-based control room design was our first to acknowledge the importance of operator performance. "Closer lighting design and control becomes necessary as the operator's field of vision narrows from control panel indicators and graphic displays to computer graphics and CRT/keyboard control," we wrote. Control room colors and noise are important elements of the operations environment We noted that operators were spending more time sitting: "With the advent of computer control, operators become increasingly sedentary…readability of the panel or graphic from the console must be ensured because the operator is now much less likely to leave the control station and stand 3 feet from the panel face."

As chronicled in the accompanying timeline, over the ensuing 25 years we expanded (and expounded on) our recognition of the operator's critical role in productivity, reliability, efficiency, knowledge management, innovation and of course, safety. Obviously, the entire automation and control system only exists to support the operator's task of running the plant as well as humanly possible.

Over the decades, Control continually pressed the frontiers of operator interface technology and visualized an idealized future, where the respected, fully trained and informed operator could quickly and easily spot potential equipment problems before they reduced production, run the process to maximize customer satisfaction and company profitability, minimize energy consumption and environmental impact, keep everyone safe, and still be home in time for dinner with his or her family.

Also Read "Designing Control Rooms for Humans"

Recent years have seen amazing advances in the operator's environment and sphere of control. HMIs are using situational awareness principles and alarm rationalization to improve operator decisions, while reducing response times. Consoles move and lighting changes in response to operators' physical dimensions, moods and operating modes, from smooth running to high alert. Field-based interfaces support tablets, smartphones and wearable components so operators can stay in control and in touch with each other, field-based personnel, remote experts and their knowledge bases at all times.

Simulation software enables operators to train virtually on the operating plant, and are aided to identify potential problems and opportunities rapidly by artificial intelligence, condition-monitoring and decision-support packages. The future will increase the power of these packages with more sensors, more powerful data analysis and better presentation of information when and how the operator needs it.

"The eternally innovative spirit that inspired all these great tools, automation and controls in the first place is never completely satisfied because it never really switches off," says Jim Montague, executive editor. "That's why engineers are always trying to find new and better solutions, and why formerly separate methods of improving operator performance in process control continue to be perfected, but also are starting to merge into a unified whole."

 

See our 25-year chronicle of the rising role of the operator in defining the human interface.

 

 

More from this voice

Title

Operators Get What They Deserve

Our First 25 Years Chronicle the Rising Role of the Operator in Defining the Human Interface

09/17/2014

Connect Operations to Business Systems with IoE

How the Internet of Everything (IoE) Closes the Gaps Between Systems and People

09/11/2014

Automation and Control in the Plant of the Future

From Pervasive Sensing to the Cloud, Change Is Coming Quickly

09/11/2014

Refineries Get Back on Track to Save Energy

Visual MESA Systems Empower Improved Operational Efficiencies in Real Time

09/11/2014

Chevron Engineers Use Logical Software for SIS Design

Trinity Integrated Systems' iDefine Suite Reduces Errors and Streamlines Design of Safety Instrumented Systems

09/10/2014

Real-Time Decisions at 200 MPH

The Technology Behind Winning Formula 1 Races Can Also Empower Your Control System

09/10/2014

Yokogawa Execs Pledge Commitment to Americas

Industrial Automation Leader Strives to Understand and Serve

09/09/2014

Yokogawa Contracts with Dell for Dedicated PCs and Servers

Agreement Leverages Dell's Global Supply Chain, Doubles Life of PCs and Servers

09/09/2014

To Toss or Not to Toss Paper Manuals and Reference Books?

Pitch the Manual! Our Editor in Chief Ponders on the Benefits of Printed Manuals, Their Ease (or Lack of ) Access, Versus Just Using the Mighty Know-It-All World Wide Web

09/08/2014

Standardization Reigns in Automation Safety

Our First 25 Years Have Seen Arcane Systems Evolve into a Highly Standardized and Tightly Regulated Discipline

08/21/2014

Clean Power Regs Complex But Within Grasp

China's Not Afraid of Better Technology Benefits and There's no Need for Coal Rollers

08/04/2014

Definitions Evolve to Improve All of Process Control

Editor in Chief Paul Studebaker Looks Back 25 Years of Development of Batch Standards

07/22/2014

Automation and the Progress of the Self-Driving Automobile

Latest News Stories Pit Google Against the Conventional Automakers with Google Demonstrating Driverless Cars

07/10/2014

Fieldbus Chronicles: the Quest for a Unified Digital Standard

25 Years' of Perspective Chronicles Exciting Developments in Industrial Networking

06/25/2014

Clearing Out Old Process Control Equipment Benefits Bottom Line

Getting Rid of Equipment Might Make a Pet Project Financially Viable, Put Outdated Material to Good Use

06/24/2014

Building Information Systems are Revolutionizing How Industry Manages Equipment Data

Companies Now Shifting Approach, Supported by Capabilities Convergence

06/17/2014

Calibration Gravitates Toward Cloud Technology

First 25 Years Document Progress of Calibration From Its Own Department to an Increasingly Automated Function

06/17/2014

Control Performance Depends on Data Integrity

Transmission Delays and Chain Breaks Are Among the Potential Sources of Data Corruption

06/05/2014

Simulators to Streamline Operator Training at Suncor

More Effective Program Is Designed to Address Attrition, Relative Inexperience

06/05/2014

Total's Stepwise Migration from TDC to Experion

From Project Approval to Hot Cutover, Lessons Learned During Port Arthur Refinery Modernization

06/04/2014